Photo: TCR Europe

Kobe Pauwels gets close to TCR Europe points lead with Monza win

Kobe Pauwels is now one point off the top of the TCR Europe standings after winning Race 1 at Monza.

The race was rescheduled for Sunday morning after a day of rain prevented it from running on Saturday, and the track was still damp in places when drivers headed out.

There was pre-race drama as Felice Jelmini did not make the start, and Levente Losonczy missed his grid slot, then when the lights did go out pole man Ruben Volt failed to get going until the rest of the field was already getting to turn one.

Pauwels took the lead ahead of Comtoyou Racing team-mates Nicola Baldan, Viktor Davidovski and Tom Coronel, while the four drivers behind them cut the first chicane entirely.

With the cold track making it hard to build tyre temperature, Pauwels spent much of lap one weaving as he had built a comfortable gap to Baldan who also weaved at times to try to get warmth into his tyres.

ALM Motorsport’s Volt was quick to start his recovery, but almost got pushed off by Volcano Motorsport’s Daniel Tkachenko. By lap two he was in 11th, meaning he had gained two places, while Pauwels was 1.25 seconds clear and leading an all-Comtoyou top six.

At the start of lap three there was a big crash as Giacomo Ghermandi was ploughed into by Tkachenko at turn one, just after being passed by Volt. The impact destroyed the front-left of Tkachenko’s car, and earned him a reprimand, and the safety car was called out to clear the two vehicles involved.

That led to the race being extended from 10 to 12 laps, with racing resuming on lap six. This time the whole field got through the opening chicane, and Volt made up further ground as he passed Viktor Andersson and then caught and passed Ivan Peklin at Lesmo 2.

Pauwels found it harder to build a gap than before, and resorted to weaving again on lap eight to try to break the tow to Baldan. The pack was bunching up behind him, but then there was drama on lap ten as points leader Coronel dropped from the rear of Davidovski at the della Roggia chicane and started to come under pressure from team-mate John Filippi behind.

By the end of the lap Davidovski was challenging Baldan for second, while Filippi was up to third as Coronel brought his smoking Audi RS 3 LMS into the pits to retire. That brought Volt up to fifth, as he had passed Aggressive Team Italia’s Giovanni Scamardi down the inside of turn one on lap nine, chased down then got ahead of sixth-placed Lewis Brown before the final corner of lap 10 and moments later gained another spot from Coronel’s woe.

Next on Volt’s radar was Filippi, and he pressured him through lap 11 while the top three broke away. Pauwels had Baldan in his mirrors but the Italian was never close enough to challenge for the lead, while Davidovski was little more than a second further behind as they finished the race.

Volt did get side-by-side with Filippi into turn one on the final lap but then cut turn two, meaning he had to slow before Curva Grande to let Filippi back past. He then got on the inside of Filippi exiting Lesmo 1 and took fourth place from him at Lesmo 2.

Race 2 is scheduled to start at 16:25 local time (CEST).